Local election victory for Marine Le Pen's National Front raises fears on both left and right

Mainstream groups concerned that National Front could gain more regional council seats

As straws in the wind go, a victory for the Far Right in a council by-election in the south of France might not appear too menacing.

All the same, mainstream parties of both right and left were examining with alarm on Monday the small print of the triumph of Marine Le Pen’s National Front in a re-run local election at the weekend in Var, near Toulon.

A former boxer, Laurent Lopez, won a seat on the department (county) council in the canton of Brignoles with 53.9 per cent, in a run-off against a candidate of the main centre-right opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). Both left-wing candidates and another far-right candidate had been eliminated in the first round the previous Sunday.

The area, although traditionally communist-run, has given substantial votes to the far right in the past. On this occasion, however, Mr Lopez scored more votes than the NF has ever won in the area.

Appeals by left-wing leaders in Paris for a “Republican” front to block the NF and elect the centre-right candidate were heeded by some left-leaning voters. Many others failed to vote, or cast spoiled ballots, in protest against high unemployment and the cautious economic policies of the Socialist President, François Hollande.

There was a sharp increase in the turn-out between rounds but many of the new voters supported the NF. National political commentators said the result in Brignoles suggested that swing or “protest” voters were turning away not just from the left but also away from the UMP, the “natural” or mainstream opposition party of the right.

The outcome confirmed a swing towards the National Front in recent nationwide opinion polls. The polls suggest that the National Front could win more seats, and towns, than ever before in municipal elections next March and could top a nationwide poll for the first time in the European elections in May.

Ms Le Pen, the NF’s leader, said the result of Sunday’s local election should be treated with caution, then immediately threw caution to the winds.

“This augurs a desire in France for change,” she said.  “It says that the people of France are going to express themselves and to mobilise. It augurs towns won [by the NF] and hundreds of council seats, maybe thousands, won (in the municipal elections in March).”

She may yet come to regret setting the bar for NF success so high. A survey by the newspaper Le Monde at the weekend found that her efforts to “de-demonise” and clean up the party she inherited from her father, Jean-Marie, had not been matched by re-organisation at grass-roots level. With less than six months to go before the municipal elections, the NF was in a position to field candidates in only one town in six, Le Monde said.

The result in Brignoles was nonetheless a stark warning to the “traditional” ruling parties of right and left – and perhaps especially for the centre-right. The main centre-right party, the UMP, is bitterly divided on how to respond to the rise of the NF since Ms Le Pen took over in 2011.

Some UMP politicians have pushed for alliances with the NF at local level against the left. Others, such as the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, have borrowed NF themes and language. Others warn that any rapprochement with the NF will be ruinous for the centre-right.

Local left-wing politicians in Var put much of the blame for the NF’s success on the unpopularity of Mr Hollande. But they also said many local voters no longer saw much difference between the attitudes and campaign language of the NF and the UMP.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links